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HindustanTimes Fri,19 Sep 2014

Hiranandani real estate heiress fights dad, brother for share of Rs. 3,000 cr fortune

Nachiket Kelkar, Hindustan Times  Mumbai, February 24, 2014
First Published: 22:48 IST(24/2/2014) | Last Updated: 11:13 IST(25/2/2014)

At stake is property worth at least Rs. 3,000 crore (according to some estimates, it could be as high as Rs. 9000 crore). And fighting over it is Niranjan Hiranandani, the real estate tycoon who created the eponymous enclave in Mumbai’s Powai area on the one hand, and his daughter Priya Vandrevala, a self-confessed rebel.

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The latest salvo was fired by Hiranandani and his son Darshan, who, last month, moved the Bombay High Court to restrain Priya’s company, Hiranandani Living, from using the family name. They even claimed `50 crore as damages for alleged trademark infringement.

But a lawyer, who represents a third party in the dispute, said the case could be a strategy to get Priya, who had earlier filed arbitrations proceedings against her father and brother in London, to the negotiating table.

“Family disputes aren’t very easy to resolve as egos get easily bruised. This gives it new and complex layers. Then it’s no longer a matter of just sorting out a financial matter,” he said. Niranjan, Darshan and Priya did not respond to phone calls and emails from HT for comments on this report.

This case was the latest in a long list of cases that emanate from a reported family agreement (on sharing profits) drawn up in 2006, to which her father, brother and Priya were parties.  Niranjan and Darshan dispute the existence of such a pact.

That same year, the Hiranan­danis, Priya and her second husband Cyrus Vandrevala, a London-based businessman, floated Hirco Plc, which raised over £350 million (about Rs. 3,500 crore at current exchange rates) on London’s Alternative Investment Market.

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The plan: invest this money in various Hiranandani projects. Initially, the company, with Niranjan as non-executive chairman and Priya as chief executive, did well and earned millions of pounds in profits.

Then, two large projects — Hiranandani Palace Gardens in Chennai, and another one in Panvel, near Mumbai, said to have a combined value of more than `3,000 crore — ran into trouble and Hirco went into loss.

Priya, named one of the Young Global Leaders by World Economic Forum in 2011, responded by filing arbitration proceedings against her father and brother in London in 2010, claiming that the family agreement was not being adhered to. She alleged that she was kept in the dark about 28 real estate deals and that this caused her massive monetary losses. Soon thereafter, both father and daughter quit their positions in the company.

The dispute took a bizarre turn when last year, Hirco sued Niranjan and Priya claiming £220 million (`2,200 crore) in damages.

So, what’s the next chapter in this dispute? “Priya Hiranandani has owned the trademark since 2008 and is surprised at the suit. She is happy to defend the claim in court but saddened to see that family members would do this than phone her and discuss matters over a cup of tea,” a spokesperson for Priya’s company was quoted in a news report.

Sources who know both sides said attempts at a settlement are being complicated by the fact that in December last year, the Bombay High Court appointed a receiver to manage Hiranandani Palace Gardens, Chennai.

But they are still hopeful of some kind of a settlement. How long will that take? That’s the billion dollar question.


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